Saturday, February 23, 2008

More Fun With The National Review

There seems to be a game at the National Review where each post must out-crazy the last. And if you liked Kudlow's corporate apologist post, you'll love this one. In a post entitled 'Obama's Political Origins', Lisa Schiffren, former speechwriter for VP Quayle and Sen. Santorum, writes-
"Obama and I are roughly the same age. I grew up in liberal circles in New York City — a place to which people who wished to rebel against their upbringings had gravitated for generations. And yet, all of my mixed race, black/white classmates throughout my youth, some of whom I am still in contact with, were the product of very culturally specific unions. They were always the offspring of a white mother, (in my circles, she was usually Jewish, but elsewhere not necessarily) and usually a highly educated black father. And how had these two come together at a time when it was neither natural nor easy for such relationships to flourish? Always through politics. No, not the young Republicans. Usually the Communist Youth League. Or maybe a different arm of the CPUSA. But, for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics. (During the Clinton Administration we were all introduced to then U. of Pennsylvania Professor Lani Guinier — also a half black/half Jewish, red diaper baby.)...

...Time for some investigative journalism about the Obama family’s background, now that his chances of being president have increased so much."

You heard her, liberal media... get to work! Is Obama's mother a communist Jew? Are we close to electing a "red diaper baby" for President? Is Sen. Obama planning to, as she later wonders, "stir up discontent among American blacks, with an eye toward using them as the leading edge of the revolution"? The fate of our nation rests in the answers to these questions!

Regarding the relationship of Obama's parents, she asks of its origins-
"Love? Sure, why not? But what else was going on around them that made it feasible?"

Holy cow. This is a woman who was not definitely not hugged enough as a child.

Defending herself and her queries, she writes that-
"Political correctness was invented precisely to prevent the mainstream liberal media from persuing [these] questions"

Well thank Christ then, Lisa, that you have the courage to be paranoid enough to ask them.

This Just In! Americans Very Concerned About Corporate Tax Rate...

...If you believe National Review writer, and CNBC pundit, Larry Kudlow that is. In a post entitled 'Pro-Business McCain vs. Populist Hill-Bama' (eek, populism monster will eat our babies!1!), Kudlow says proudly that-
Senator John McCain essentially took the no-new-taxes pledge on the Stephanopoulos show Sunday morning. He also emphasized his corporate-tax-cut plan, which would drop the rate from 35 to 25 percent, and reiterated his pledge to keep the Bush tax rates in place.

No new taxes? I seem to remember Bush's father making that promise once... until economic realities forced him to trade ideology for practicality (his son has shown he is much better at ignoring reality to appease his base). I wonder which road McCain would take there. After all, he is a maverick.

As for the corporate tax rate, Kudlow really lays it on thick to make that seem oppressive. With most companies hitting record profits in the past several years-- thanks in part to massive layoffs and outsourcing (more on that in a bit)-- it hardly seems like they need a break here. Tax breaks should only be reserved to reward companies who do the right thing (fostering job growth, cutting pollution and waste, etc), not as free-cash giveaways.

As for the ridiculous pandering that every GOP candidate must pay homage to the Bush tax cuts-- and promise to continue this unprecedented practice during wartime-- I'll let Slate's Daniel Gross take that one. In an article examining the President's tax lies in his recent State of the Union, Gross writes-
He told Congress that making the tax cuts, due to expire in 2010, permanent today would go a long way toward soothing frayed economic nerves. "With all the other pressures on their finances, American families should not have to worry about the federal government taking a bigger bite out of their paychecks. There is only one way to eliminate this uncertainty: Make the tax relief permanent." This is, of course, a fantasy confined to a dwindling number of office suites in the White House, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and certain time slots on CNBC. On the long and growing list of factors weighing on the economy—stagnant job growth, the housing mess, problems with bond insurers, the self-inflicted wounds of the financial sector, a debased currency—the prospect that tax rates are going to revert to 1990s levels in three years is pretty far down.

Ding ding ding! I demand that every Democrat be equally concise in their discussion of this.

Kudlow continues-
Incidentally, an interesting story in USA Today by Dan Nowicki of the Arizona Republic says that Sen. McCain has often talked about getting top U.S. business leaders into his administration. Several times on the campaign trail, McCain has mentioned Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Cisco’s John Chambers, and FedEx CEO Fred Smith as possible cabinet members.

Yes, that is what we need to get fair, hard-nosed economic advice in this administration... stack the presidential cabinet full of CEOs. I can't see a problem with that, nope.

Mr. Kudlow then goes on a rant about the populist rhetoric of the vile "Hill-Bama" monster (including Obama's-- gasp-- questioning how successful our free-trade agreements have been!). He assures us that "Sen. McCain will hold them accountable for their primary-season populist rhetoric during the general election." What does that even mean? That the GOP is finally cutting out the 'we're looking out for the little guy' routine and just admitting they're the party of the rich? If so, I am all for it.

He concludes-
There are a lot of reasons why the anti-business message doesn’t work. One important reason is that 138 million Americans work for these corporations. Their livelihoods depend on businesses. 138 million is a big number. Think of it.

Yes, 138 million Americans work for these corporations... and they couldn't give a shit that conservatives think the corporate tax rate is too high. Why? Because-- unlike what Kudlow's wording implies-- they don't pay that rate, only their billionaire bosses do. Considering that most of these 138 million have been working more and longer for a lower standing of living than their parent's generation (and under the constant fear of layoffs, loss of health-care, etc), I'm not sure that the corporate tax rate is their most important concern. That these companies choose to punish their employees-- rather than their own, personal massive profits-- when forced to pay their fair share is the fault of greed, not populism.

Big businesses have behaved immorally in this past decade-- and the economy is now (again) paying the price for their excess-- and people like Kudlow want to reward them for it. "The real supply-side 'bang for the buck' comes at the top-end" of the economy, he insisted in another recent piece. He went on to state that idea of focusing economic relief on "the so-called middle class" was "futile" and "bad politics". This is modern economic conservatism in a nutshell. And if that's the message that the GOP will be running with this year, they are in for a rude awakening.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend Odds and Ends

This is all important stuff that I wish I had the time to write more about, but I don't...

The government confirms that we totally blew up that satellite.

The housing crisis... still super crisis-y. Ownership society!

I've been purposely ignoring that McCain story (he's accused of giving special treatment-- and more?-- to a prominent female lobbyist). Honestly, it's still too complicated a matter to weigh in on right now. It's also too early to guess the political fallout, though it has achieved one thing... rallying the conservative base to McCain's side.

(Also, the maverick's rating on the Conservation Voters Environmental Scorecard? 0%.)

Speaking of Arizona politicians... another Republican congressman is under indictment.

This Washington Post story has a good look at the costs of the Iraq war, including what the army is paying worn-out soldiers to stay.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has extended his cease-fire for another six months, in welcome news. But up north, Turkish troops entered Iraq to chase down Kurdish rebels.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court "without comment, turned down an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union to let it pursue a lawsuit against the program that began shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks." Meanwhile, on a related note, Speaker Pelosi kept the house in pro-forma session during this week's recess to prevent any Bush shenanigans on the FISA legislation.

(Note: 6 days since the Protect America Act expired, and we're still, miraculously, alive.)

Finally, '60 Minutes' will have a report this weekend on how Karl Rove and other GOP operatives launched a (successful) campaign to take down Alabama governor Don Siegelman. This is a case with ties to the U.S. Attorney scandal.

John McCain: Military Expert (Pt. II)

Both Sens. McCain and Clinton-- as part of their strategy to sound exactly the same in how they take on Obama-- are playing the 'Commander-in-Chief' card on the campaign trail. This issue came up in last night's debate. This disturbs me because it perpetuates the Bush-era mindset that we're electing a Commander-in-Chief who also happens to be the President, when it's supposed to be the other way around.

Sen. McCain, earlier this week, ripped into Obama's "naïve" foreign policy worldview-
In Ohio, Mr. McCain sharpened his attacks on Mr. Obama, accusing him of wanting to bomb Pakistan and of announcing it ahead of time to the rest of the world.

"That's naïve," Mr. McCain said at a news conference in Columbus. "The first thing that you do is you make your plans and you carry out your operations as necessary for America's national security interests. You don't broadcast that you are going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation."

Yes, that's John 'Bomb Bomb Iran' McCain, the official candidate of the neoconservative movement, lecturing Sen. Obama for considering the possible use of military force. Oh, and he also wants you to know that you're making too much of his '100 years in Iraq' comments, and seriously please stop mentioning it.

Glenn Greenwald compiles numerous McCain statements on military force-- agitating for war against Iraq in 2002; agitating for war against Iran now-- to put the punctuation mark on this. Greenwald concludes-
"Among the Serious foreign policy analysts -- as well as in John McCain's uniquely war-loving mind -- it's perfectly permissible for the U.S. to threaten, bomb and invade any Arab or Muslim country that strikes our fancy, except for the one that is actually harboring those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. ... The 9/11 attacks justify every conceivable American military action except for ones aimed at the people who actually did it."

Bingo. The neocons have long made clear that they don't really care about terrorism... it's just an excuse to engage in the wars they've long sought. Neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer blew off Afghanistan last year as "a geographically marginal backwater" while defending our occupation of Iraq, because "its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region." Take that, terrorism!

And it's important to clarify what Obama actually said about Pakistan. He never said he would invade Pakistan, never said he'd overthrow its government, never said he'd shock and awe the place with bombing campaigns, etc. What he said was that if-- in the very specific circumstance-- we had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or other top al Qaeda officials, we would use targeted military strikes to take them out. Which, unless I'm mistaken, is existing U.S. policy anyway. The sticking point seems to be that he said he'd do so even if President Musharraf-- who's on thin political ice now anyway-- disagreed (Bush response: when it's a dictator I like, yes we need a permission slip). It was clear that he means this as a last resort, in a very specific case. And after years of a celebrated war culture in America, now that is going too far?

A later Obama statement on Pakistan-- responding to a question by stating he would never use nuclear weapons to take out terrorist bases-- was also lambasted as a 'gaffe' (?!) by the Clinton campaign and the media. Yikes.

So let's review, shall we? Going after the al Qaeda terrorists we are supposed to fear so much = Bad. Invading and occupying sovereign nations and threatening to use nuclear weapons against tiny nations = Serious foreign policy. Okay, I'm really glad that we cleared that up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Debate Reaction

A lot of people seem to be saying that this debate was boring and needed more sizzle, but it was what the last debate was... a (mostly) substantive debate on policy. And isn't that what people are claiming that they want? For the record, I liked it, although I wish the moderators would broaden the question base a little bit the next time to avoid it getting repetitive. I also didn't mind how both talked up their numerous agreements, as both were clearly looking to help the party at large come general election time.

While both debated well, I thought Sen. Obama won by virtue of not losing. Sen. Clinton set the goal herself of proving that Obama is an empty shell and can't debate, and that just didn't happen. He held his own and actually focused better on specifics-- over platitudes-- than she did. I'm not sure how well that came across to casual viewers, as the exhaustion of both was clearly showing in their faces.

Some specific differences (I've discussed the healthcare/mandate issue before, so I won't get into it again)-- the first was on Cuba, and speaking with foreign leaders we dislike. Sen. Clinton said we should only do so after preconditions have been met. Obama countered that he'd do so from the start, while setting goals from said leaders as a condition toward officially normalizing relations. I agree with that, because that's how diplomacy works... if Nixon could go to China, and if Reagan could meet with Soviet leaders, then surely Obama can meet with Raul Castro or even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That only seems radical after eight years of George W. Bush. On immigration, no real differences... both agree that the system needs fixing, but that the rhetoric around the issue is hyperbolic and counterproductive. As for the economy, Obama nailed Clinton with the NAFTA card, and she mostly sidestepped the issue, focusing instead on green job proposals and fairer economic distribution. When the national security question came, Hillary began discussing all the foreign policy crises awaiting the next President... a fair point, but she never really followed up with a reason why she's better suited to handle them than Obama. Obama hit back with what is definitely his best argument, that-- as the Iraq war shows-- good judgement is superior to experience. The moderator then brought up the superdelegate debate. Hillary said it's not a big deal, and will settle itself out. Obama countered that the will of the people must be obeyed. No real settling of that debate there.

The only real soundbite-y part of the debate came when the moderator brought up the BS 'plagiarism' scandal, which Obama did a good job of smacking down. Hillary tried to come back with a zinger, but the audience just completely turned on her for it, and the issue was dropped. I guarantee they won't be bringing this nonsense up anymore. But like I said, that was really the only silly part of the evening, and things ended on better ground.

Ultimately, though, the real judges of all of this will be the voters of Texas and Ohio.

[UPDATE: Full video- Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.]

Reminder: Democratic Debate Tonight

There is a debate tonight in Texas between Sens. Obama and Clinton. It will be broadcast on CNN, starting at 8pm EST. There'll also be another debate on Tuesday night, from Ohio this time, broadcast on NBC stations.

Sen. Clinton sees these debates as her last big chance to take down Obama (who just scored his 11th straight victory, by winning the Democrats Abroad primary). This assumes that Obama is a bad debater, which I have never seen as the case, though admittedly I may not be the most impartial observer there. Clinton is facing a tough road ahead, needing landslide victories in both those states to stay in the race. Now maybe that is possible, but I'm not sure she'll get the ammo necessary to do that out of this debate.

What is clear, however, is that she is ready to do whatever it takes to win. She has set up a website offering 'Facts and Myths about the Race for Delegates in the Democratic Nomination', though uninformed readers won't know it's a Hillary shill site unless they read the fine print at the bottom. The whole site is basically making the case to get the party to change the nomination rules at the 11th hour. For instance, it insists that the Florida and Michigan delegates be seated to 'honor the spirit of the Democrats' 50-state strategy'. Yes, that's Hillary 'all your states suck' Clinton... invoking the 50-state strategy. These people absolutely have no shame.

The message here is clear... you'll have to pull the nomination from her cold, dead hands.


It's official... George W. Bush is now the most unpopular President in American history.

It certainly makes you wonder why John McCain is running for George Bush's third term.

Gitmo Justice

Last week came news that trials of high-profile detainees at Guantanamo Bay were coming this year. Some more perspective on this story is needed. The Nation's Ross Tuttle spoke with Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo's military commissions, about this. Here is what he learned-
When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes--the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. "[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, something that had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals, we've got to have convictions.'"

'Nuff said. These trials are not about seeking justice for 9/11 or any other terrorist crimes, it's about the Bush administration seeking cover and vindication in their final year in office for 7 years of mistakes and bad policy. Given a chance to admit error and seek a better course-- one which could provide us with the post-9/11 closure that we need-- they always choose to stay the course.

Col. Davis resigned last October, by the way, due to concerns over all of this.

The article concludes-
"If someone was acquitted, then it would suggest we did the wrong thing in the first place. That can't happen," says [Columbia University Law School professor Scott] Horton sardonically. "When the government decides to clear someone, it calls the person 'no-longer an enemy combatant' instead of just saying they made a mistake."

He adds, "For people like Haynes, justice is meant to serve the party."

Yep. Expect these trials to occur as close to election time as possible.

Meanwhile, In The Rest of the World...

Because there's crazy shit happening in the rest of the world too, here's a roundup/followup of significant news from other countries on this crazy old planet of ours...

Cuba: Castro legacy holds despite resignation / Pakistan: Proposed Pakistan coalition could oust Musharraf / What's next for Pakistan? / Denmark: And The Happiest Place On Earth Is... / Africa: Bush assures Africa on US intentions / Africa: Fighting traps thousands of Darfurians / Mideast: Abbas cool to unilateral Palestinian independence / Kosovo: War of words flares after Kosovo border inferno / Antartica: Mysterious Creatures Found in Antarctica

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hillary Clinton vs. The 50-State Strategy

It's become almost a running joke how Sen. Clinton's campaign folks insist that the only 'significant' states are the ones-- coincidentally-- that Hillary has won or expects to win. But as their desperation increases, so too does this narrative grow. Defending the Clinton strategy of focusing on superdelegates, Joel Ferguson, co-chair of Clinton's Michigan campaign (a 'significant' state even though their delegates are not to be counted), said-
"Superdelegates are not second-class delegates," Ferguson said. "The real second-class delegates are the delegates that are picked in red-state caucuses that are never going to vote Democratic."

Sen. Clinton needs to officially refute this nonsense immediately, for the party's future.

After the Democrats' embarrassing loss in 2004 to the worst president ever, they realized a reevaluation was needed. With some resistance, they began one.

Despite opposition from party insiders, Howard Dean was elected Chairman of the Democratic Party in early 2005. The key focus of his leadership was his promise to employ a 50-State Strategy in rebuilding the party from the ground up. Via Wikipedia, Dean's vision-
The goal, the DNC says, is for the Democratic Party to be committed to winning elections at every level in every region of the country, with Democrats organized in every single voting precinct in the country...

...The 50-state strategy relies on the idea that building the Democratic Party is at once an incremental election by election process as well as a long-term vision in party building. Democrats cannot compete in counties in which they do not field candidates.

In short, the red-state/blue-state divide became a self-fulfilling prophecy. By 2004, Democrats had written off red states as unwinnable, and competed there only half-heartedly. Dean believed that when you ignore voters like this, they will ignore you. Poll after poll after poll over the years have shown most voters in line with the Democratic position on issues-- the economy, the war, the environment, choice, etc-- and yet they were swayed by a superior GOP message machine. Go to these states, Dean said, and make your case, and the votes will follow. The party insiders mocked this as naive.

The Democrats' huge victories in the '06 elections vindicated this strategy. We won the House (expected), but by a bigger margin than predicted. And we won the Senate, which was not expected. And in the Senate, two candidates who helped tip the scales-- Jon Tester in Montana, and Jim Webb in Virginia-- were candidates initially opposed by the old-school DLC for not fitting their mold.

Look at where Democrats stand now nationally in some 'red' states... Montana has a Democratic governor, and two Democratic Senators. Virginia has a Democratic governor, and after Mark Warner's surefire victory this year, will have two Dem Senators as well. Kansas-- the post-2004 symbol of how Democrats had lost the heartland-- has a Democratic governor who gave the response to the State of the Union. Numerous state legislatures, including in Kansas, flipped to Democratic control. We now have the majority of Governors, etc. This is a working strategy.

The big states that Sen. Clinton has won are states like California, New York, and Massachusetts. These are the states that Democrats, short of running Mike Gravel in the general election, are guaranteed to win no matter what. It's hardly a coup for November. Many of the states where Obama has won-- Colorado, Kansas, Virginia, Iowa-- are states that can, in theory, be won by a Democrat this time around (Ohio is ours this time, I believe, no matter what). They responded to Obama because he took them seriously. I wonder how they'll respond in a general election to a candidate who dismissed their state as irrelevant?

The short-sighted, arrogant win-at-all-costs attitude of these people is amazing. It's positively Rove-esque. If any of my readers live in Ohio, Texas, or Pennsylvania, I implore you to take this into consideration when the time comes to speak your voice this Spring.

Compare and Contrast

Courtesy of TPM-- which has just won a Polk award for their work in uncovering the U.S. Attorney scandal last year-- a tale of three speeches last night. I'll let it speak for itself.

Wisconsin/Hawaii Decide: Obama and McCain Solidify Leads

It looks like another solid night for Sen. Obama. The results aren't in yet from Hawaii, but it's obvious he will win that one decisively. In Wisconsin, it's looking now like he won with a 15-17 point lead ahead of Sen. Clinton. His victory speech, from Houston, was full of (cautious) confidence looking ahead.

The spin from the Clinton camp is the same as it's been since Super Tuesday... "Meh!". I was watching MSNBC after the Obama speech, and a Hillary campaign staffer-- her former press secretary when she was First Lady-- was telling Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann that Wisconsin isn't an important state and that Hillary didn't want to win it anyway. Seriously. This people are becoming parodies of themselves.

The fact of the matter is that Clinton was hoping for a surprise Wisconsin win and was pulling out all the stops-- new attack memes against the Obamas-- to try and make that happen. In the end, all that did was give cable news something to talk about for a few days.

It's onward now to March 4 and Texas and Ohio. You know, the real states...

[PS- On the GOP side, McCain won Wisconsin, Washington primaries. Sucks to be you, Rush.]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In Defense of Obama's Substance

The latest narrative on Obama is 'yea, he's inspiring and all, but is he a hollow candidate?'. The current cover story of The Economist is entitled: 'But could he deliver?: It is time for America to evaluate Obama the potential president, not Obama the phenomenon'. It's also, not coincidentally, the current line of attack from Sen. Clinton.

From a campaign strategy point of view, it's obvious why Clinton is running with this. But the fact that the press is doing the same can largely be chalked up to journalistic laziness. They claim to not know or understand what Obama's positions on the issues are, but it doesn't exactly take an in-depth field investigation to uncover this. To do so, I clicked on his campaign website, clicked on 'Issues', and a submenu of detailed policy positions and proposals appeared... Economy, Education, Energy & Environment, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Homeland Security, Healthcare, Immigration, Poverty, etc. This took me an exhausting 5-10 seconds.

He also has a 64-page Blueprint for Change PDF summary of his positions which can be printed out for reading on the go. I recommend some of these journalists print this out to read on the campaign planes when preparing the latest inane question they will be asking of our candidates.

It is also not true that he does not discuss these issues in his speeches. In Wisconsin just last week, for instance, he gave a detailed speech on the economy. And on his blog last week, Andrew Sullivan reminisced about attending a Obama speech on tax policy, so detailed that Sullivan lamented it was "boring". That attitude is likely why the media does not cover those speeches, though it doesn't explain why they pretend they never took place.

Finally, we get to the cold, hard fact about Democrats and the media... damned if you do, and damned if you don't. The media in 2000 ripped Al Gore apart for running a campaign that was too stuffy and wonky. They found his command of the issues, and his focus on detail and policy, to be boring and lame. They demanded he appear more down-to-earth and human, like that delightfully folksy governor from Texas. This resulted in the Gore campaign putting him in ridiculous situations, like when Gore kissed and pawed his wife at the Democratic Convention that summer. And now, when they have the inspiring, charismatic candidate they demanded of the Democrats eight years ago, they are complaining that... he needs to be more stuffy and wonky.

Lesson learned? Just ignore the media's mumblings, and focus on your strengths. Luckily, since the Bob Shrums of the Democratic party who ran Gore and Kerry's campaigns into the ground aren't represented in the Obama coalition, that lesson may just be learned this year.

Bill Clinton Endorses Barack Obama!

1992 Bill Clinton has traveled forward in time to explain to voters why they should elect Sen. Obama for President, and why Sen. Clinton's arguments just don't hold water. This is, needless to say, huge news. Here's the video-

"I believe experience counts, but it's not everything. Values, judgment, and the record that I have amassed in my state also should count for something. You know, my wife Hillary gave me a book about a year ago in which the author defined insanity as just doing the same old thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. We have got to have the courage to change. Experience is important, yes; I've gotten a lot of good experience in dealing with ordinary people over the last year and month. I've touched more people's lives and seen more heartbreak and hope, more pain and more promise than anybody else that's run for President this year...

...We need a new approach. The same old experience is not relevant."

This was, at the time, an effective and solid argument in favor of a Clinton presidency, which turned out for most Americans to be far better than what had come before. But since that time (it's been 16 years), the Clintons have become the "same old" they once fought against. Sen. Obama has the superior values, judgement, and record to lead this country... as the Iraq issue, and many others, illustrate. Let's have the courage to change again.

[Hat tip- Obama_2008. This clip is from a 1992 debate with George Bush and Ross Perot.]

Meanwhile, In Cuba...

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the longest-running thorn in Uncle Sam's side, is stepping down from power. His brother Raul, who's basically been running things anyway, will likely succeed him.

Given the history of U.S.-Cuban relations, this is very big news. Look for the three presidential candidates-- out scoring last minute votes for today's primaries in Wisconsin and Hawaii-- to weigh in on this quickly. Personally, while this issue has never been a passion of mine, I hope that this will mean (though not overnight) the end of our ridiculously outdated anti-Cuba policy... and the end of the embargo. It's amazing that our leaders can't let go of the Cold War after all these years, and that the Cuban people have been made to suffer for that. We keep hearing how the world is changing, and maybe it's time that we did too.

[UPDATE: Here's a compilation of where the presidential candidates stand on this.]

FISA Fact-Checking

As you know, the House refused (for once) to cave to the Bush administration and allowed the Protect America Act to expire this past weekend... after, of course, the President promised to veto any renewal of it which didn't grant amnesty to the telecom companies. They'll take up the bill again after the recess.

Amazingly enough, we are still alive, even though we were assured by the Republicans that we'd all be dead if we didn't invade Iraq if we voted for John Kerry if we didn't pass the Military Commissions Act if we didn't get this passed by Friday.

But how can this be? The Washington Times-- an extremely conservative paper-- explains-
Many intelligence scholars and analysts outside the government say that today's expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders.

With the Protect America Act expiring this weekend, domestic wiretapping rules will revert to the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires the government to obtain a warrant from a special court to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance in the United States.

The original FISA law, these experts say, provides the necessary tools for the intelligence community to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists.

Timothy Lee, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, said the last time Congress overhauled FISA — after the September 11 terrorist attacks — President Bush praised the action, saying the new law "recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist."

"Those are the rules we'll be living under after the Protect America Act expires this weekend," Mr. Lee added. "There's no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006."...

Huh. It's almost as the administration is lying to us. But that would never happen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Meanwhile, In Pakistan...

In Pakistan's elections yesterday, allies of Musharraf suffered losses. But what next?

Odds and Ends

It's President Day, and how very unpatriotic of my boss to make me work. Here's news...

NYC Mayor Bloomberg perfectly sums up why the stimulus checks are an insult. He "has unleashed another flurry of jabs on Washington, ridiculing the federal government's rebate checks as being 'like giving a drink to an alcoholic' on Thursday, and said the presidential candidates are looking for easy solutions to complex economic problems."

Put down that Whopper, folks! A CA meat company has "issued the largest beef recall in history, 143 million pounds, some of which was used in school lunch programs, Department of Agriculture officials announced." This is the result of an undercover video from the Humane Society showing the cows being abused.

(A good time to go organic?)

Speaking of abuse... Gulf Coast residents, your FEMA trailer is toxic.

Meanwhile, big news in Europe: "Revelers fired guns, waved red-and-black Albanian flags and set off fireworks over Kosovo Sunday after parliament proclaimed independence in defiance of Serbia and Russia, which condemned the declaration of the world's newest nation." EU leaders are split over this matter.

Finally, voters in Pakistan went to the polls today, in the election postponed by Bhutto's assassination. And, next door in Afghanistan, events continue to spiral out of control.

Why is the U.S. Shooting Down A Satellite?

By now, you may have heard some stories about the U.S. has a "plan to shoot down a failed satellite with a missile defense interceptor in the coming days... aimed at preventing toxic fuel from reaching earth." But besides toxic fuel spillage, what else is at stake here? A lot, the experts to be saying.

The Washington Note's Steve Clemons opines that "Shooting down a spy satellite whose orbit is decaying is either an exercise in super power vanity or an action designed to escalate the further militarization of space." The latter seems to be the general sentiment. The Washington Times notes that-
U.S. officials and experts said yesterday it would also signal that U.S. missile defenses can be used to counter China’s strategic anti-satellite weapons.

And the NY Times has more on the stakes of all of this-
The order by President Bush for the Navy to launch an antimissile interceptor to destroy a disabled satellite before it falls from orbit carries opportunity, but also potential embarrassment, for the administration and advocates of its missile defense program...

...Should it succeed, the accomplishment would embolden those who champion even more spending on top of the $57.8 billion appropriated by Congress for missile defenses
since the Bush administration’s first budget in the 2002 fiscal year.

It might even revive a dormant effort to focus the military on antisatellite operations, as well. Failure, on the other hand, would be cited as hard and fresh evidence for those who point to the futility of space-warfare programs.

So ultimately, this comes down to the hawks and neocons efforts to justify one of the longest-running, most maligned, and most expensive of military boondoggles. The 'Star Wars' project must be vindicated. And if they can stop some toxic fuel from smashing into the Earth too, well that's a bonus, I suppose.

If only our country's public schools would start leaking fuel, maybe we can shoot a few billion more into that system to save it too.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Democratic Primary: Odds and Ends

First, TPM's Josh Marshall looks at where we stand, then some roundups from me-

Sen. Clinton's new line of attack against frontrunner Barack Obama is that he is all style, no substance... "My opponent gives speeches, I offer solutions," she says. Obama fought back with a speech in Wisconsin on the economy, in which he takes on the credit card industry. He also proposed the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, an overdue idea.

Speaking of the economy, is NAFTA the elephant in the room for the Clintons in some of the later contests?

Sen. Clinton's campaign gurus, meanwhile, continue to insist that any of the two dozen states that voted for Obama are not 'significant' (stay classy, folks). And while some may question the Clinton's embracing of the Giuliani strategy, the fact remains that she does appear to be ahead in Ohio and Pennsylvania. You know, the significant states.

If though, at the end of the primaries, Clinton is behind on delegates and in the popular vote, will she risk a Democratic civil war by using the superdelegates to make her the nominee? Answer: Of course she will.

And with a movement starting to stop the superdelegates from abusing their power, many sympathetic ones are speaking out. Ari Emanuel, for instance, is a powerful Hollywood talent agent, whose brother also happens to be congressman Rahm Emanuel, one of the most powerful House Democrats (and thusly, a superdelegate). In a blog post, Ari has a message for his brother and other superdelegates... no funny business, guys!

Finally, while an Edwards endorsement is debated, don't expect Al Gore to chime in until convention time.

Universal Health Care, Not Universal Insurance

Here's an article showing how mandating folks into a broken system misses the point...

CBS News: Blue Cross To Docs: Help Cancel Coverage--
Calif. Health Insurer Sends Letters Asking Physicians To Report Pre-Existing Conditions

Sen. Clinton had said a while back that "It is long past time that Americans and the richest of all countries realize that health care is a right and not a privilege." But that will never be the case as long as the health care of people with coverage is still treated as a privilege to be granted, or taken away, on a whim by a profit-based system.